On the 22nd September, 2016, the Missing Person’s Families Support Centre in Lithuania held an unveiling ceremony of a specially commissioned sculpture in memory of missing children, entitled Mother…!
Amongst the invited guests attending the ceremony were Larisa Dmitrijeva, Chair of the Republic of Lithuania’s Commission for the Prevention of Drug and Alcohol Addiction; Algimanta Pabedinskienė, Minister of Social Security and Labour; Artūras Norkevičius, vice-Minister of the Interior of the Republic of Lithuania; Jonas Bartlings, delegate from the municipality of Vilnius and Edward Janis, US Embassy counsellor for human rights issues.
The idea for the sculpture came from the mother of a missing boy. She called on other parents to spend more time with their children. The sculpture is situated in a popular area of Vilnius, near the centre of Lithuanian children and youth and encourages society to pay attention to this important problem.
Natalja Kurčinskaja, director of the Missing Person’s Families Support Centre, addressed those present, stating ‘’…90 percent of all missing children are runaways….children are faced with very big problems, they do not receive the necessary support, they feel lack of communication with their parents.”
The sculpture portrays a child’s call for his mother. It also symbolises the need for children to be heard and to be understood. This same message was at the heart of the unveiling ceremony. Larisa Dmitrijeva, Member of Parliament, and the main patron behind the idea to create a sculpture, said, ‘’Let this sculpture be a reminder to all of us about our children, their lives and worries.’’Algimanta Pabedinskienė , Minister of Social Security and Labour, encouraged people to speak about the problem and to be proactive about solving it, saying ‘’What we can do is educate children to be careful, free to talk about their problems, to know how to recognise and how to deal with the dangers.” Artūras Norkevičius, Vice-Minister of the Interior of the Republic of Lithuania also encouraged children to be brave and to trust the police. Edward Janis, from the US embassy emphasised that this sculpture is a very important symbol in drawing society’s attention to the problem of missing children.
The disappearance of children is becoming an increasingly greater problem not only for Lithuania but also for the whole of Europe. According to Lithuania’s data in 2015, 3,241 missing persons were unaccounted for and more than 60 % (2,048) of that cohort were minors. Unfortunately this number is increasing every year (Data of Information Technology and Communications department under the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Lithuania).
The Missing Persons’ Families Support Centre works in the area of prevention of human trafficking, including the disappearance of children and their easy prey to human trafficking networks. The Missing Persons’ Families Support Centre coordinates a free hotline (116 000) for relatives of missing children.
Adapted by Anne Kelleher, RENATE Communications.